Becca Wilhite Blog

October 10, 2014

One Way?

Filed under: musings — becca @ 2:49 pm

I’m looking at a picture of a One-Way road sign. And I’m pondering. If a road actually only went one way, would someone really have to post a sign to say so? By definition, if the sign is there, it’s possible to go the other way. So why do we follow the sign? Why do we stick to the One way? Why not try it out? Experiment? Why not go “our” way on the road?

This only occurs to me now, as I’m middle aged and adventure-free. It never really occurred to me when I was learning to drive, or as a young adult exploring options. It didn’t occur to me to ignore “the sign” literally or figuratively. If a sign was there, I obeyed the sign. If I wasn’t supposed to drive that way (or walk that way, or speak that way, or act that way, or live that way), I didn’t do it.

What if I had? How would my life have been different? I probably would have been more memorable. More interesting. The adrenaline would have been pumping more often. Things would have looked different from less-often-viewed angles.

I’m certain that I missed out on a few interesting views. But I’m also certain I stayed safer. And I’m reminded of a quote by Norman Cousins: “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” I guess wisdom made me miss some things, but I can’t say I wish I’d been less wise, less able to anticipate consequences. In fact, when I think of myself at critical time periods of my life, anticipation is one thing I was pretty good at. If I choose this, I’d tell myself, I’ll get that. And I was right. Almost all the time. Which makes me predictable and satisfied.

None of which would make me an interesting book character. But seriously? Who wants to be one of those? Conflict oozing everywhere. I’ll pass. I’ll stick with predictable and fulfilled and boring, because boring is a totally underrated personality characteristic, and one that comes from (and leads to) general satisfaction.

The only caveat is this: Think This Way is a sign I’m not so inclined to follow. It’s one of those subtle signs surrounding me every day (wear this, eat this, buy this, choose this). And sometimes it’s laughably unsubtle, and what can you do then but laugh? Think This Way is everywhere, and my job isn’t to tear the signs down; it’s to open eyes to it. My eyes, my kids’ eyes, my students’ eyes. And once the eyes are open, the brains can make the choices about which way to think.

October 6, 2014

I Wish I’d Never (a short list)

Filed under: dumb things I do,lists — becca @ 1:24 pm

* I wish I’d never quit piano lessons. This is showing itself in a near-daily battle with the 13-year-old over practicing. She wants to quit, and I don’t want her to have this same regret. So we grumble at each other over the dusty little spinet.
* I wish I’d never said mean things about my mom. I didn’t mean them, but it’s too late for me to tell her that. They weren’t all that different from the things my girls say about me, probably, and most likely they were milder. But I really didn’t mean them. And I’m sorry.
* I wish I’d never bought clothes just because the price was good. I wish I’d been more likely to buy something excellent than to check tags before I decided whether I liked something or not.
* I wish I’d never liked butter.
* I wish I’d never stopped doing those triceps exercises I did when I was 34. I did them every day until I stopped doing them at all, and now look at the state of these arms. Oy.
* I wish I’d never been such a chicken about boys. In particular, about C when I was a freshman in college. He was charming and nice and witty and cute and, by all ordinary signals, interested (at least that one afternoon when I thought I’d better do something other than go out with him when he asked – because [surprise!] he’d never asked again). My fear of being thought a tramp, a brazen hussy, a … oh, let’s be real. My fear of being rejected kept me out of a whole lot of possibly awesome situations.
* I wish I’d never said out loud how I felt about P. Now every time I’m in a room with her, I just get that same icky feeling of being annoyed and disgusted and sad that things are the way they are. If I’d kept that opinion locked safely inside my head, I could pretend I’d never felt annoyed. Or disgusted. Or sad. And then maybe I wouldn’t feel those things at all. Why is it that once it’s said, it’s practically written in stone?
* I wish I’d never stopped the habit of writing every day. It’s hard, these days, to find enough time to write the things I want to say. To carve out the time to enter a story and make things happen, characters feel things, plots go awry. I miss it, not every day, but on the days I try to do it and it’s like using atrophied muscles.
* I wish I’d never gotten into the habit of negative self-talk. How do you unhear your own voice in your head? I wish I’d always been kind to myself. Most days I deserve that, but rarely do I get it.
* I wish I’d never been hesitant to say nice things. I am still hesitant, sometimes – not that I’m shy, but I worry that nice things will be misinterpreted. Sometimes those things happen. But really? To be thought too nice? That might be the right kind of misinterpretation after all.

October 3, 2014

Benefit of the Doubt

Filed under: Uncategorized — becca @ 11:05 am

I always feel better when I give the benefit of the doubt. Whether I’m assuming that someone didn’t mean offense when offense is in the air, or that kids will be honest when given a chance to be, it always feels better to assume the best about people. So why, so often, do I not choose it?

I’m finding that I get disappointed (a lot) when I expect something of someone and they don’t deliver. When I make a request and its not honored. When I presume someone will behave a certain way and they choose not to.

I need to get right over that, but there’s my little dilemma. I’d rather expect good things, but when I go ahead and expect them, I find myself staggering around under the weight of disappointment. Sometimes I can pretend that I don’t mind, but other times it presses on me until I kind of explode.

Maybe it’s harder to bear it these days because I’m so rarely alone. I don’t have cool-down time. I don’t get to stand in a quiet place and breathe through disappointments. Maybe it’s harder because I have to ask so many people to do so many things. And so if I require something of my students, and a majority of them do it, it’s so great – but there are more than 200 of them, so the chances are good that DOZENS of them didn’t do what they were supposed to. And I haven’t figured out how to not take it personally. Because it’s still always personal.

__Side Note__ One of the things I say over and over to a couple of my classes is, “I will not chase you down and force you to pass this class.” But know what? I totally do. I chase them down. I hand them extra chances to retake tests and prove their mastery of materials. I allow all the make-up. Sometimes I even offer extra credit. I am spineless, and I want them to pass. And succeed. And not show up here again in this class next year. __End Side Note__

Another reason that maybe it’s hard to handle this kind of disappointment is that I am not used to it. When my husband says he’s going to do something, he does it. When I ask my kids to help with something, they help with it. It’s an integrity thing that is kind of formative in our house. And I do have a tendency to think that the way we do things is the way things should be done. Alas.

So I will carry on. I will continue to have expectations. And state them. Over and over, if necessary. And give credit to those who do the things. And work to not bear the burdens of those who can’t be bothered. Because there are plenty of different burdens I’d rather bear – burdens of sadness and heartache and loneliness. Burdens not of laziness but of LIFE. And to give the benefit of the doubt when things occasionally go awry (as things always, always tend to do).

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